Have you ever touched or held something that is rare and precious?
Read Mark 5:21-43
Jesus has become known as a healer. He can heal many with ease. Great crowds are drawn to Jesus mainly due to his healing ability. He healed a man with an impure spirit in a synagogue on the Sabbath (Mk 1:21-29). He healed a man’s shrivelled up hand in a synagogue. He was accused by some teachers of the law from Jerusalem that he drove out demons with the power of a demon. The impression he is leaving with the leaders of Judaism is not a good one. The opening statement of Mark, however, tells us that this book is about the Good News and Jesus’ first words were “the kingdom has come near.” These things will help draw out some points in this passage.
A synagogue is a place of worship not to be confused for the temple which is where the sacrifices are made.
- A desperate father/a Synagogue leader came to Jesus (21-24a)
- A desperate woman/an unclean woman came to Jesus (24b-29)
- A desperate healer/Jesus draws the woman out (30-34)
- A disinterested house/Jesus ignores the apathy (35-40a)
- A deliberate healing/Jesus changes everything (40b-43)
A desperate father (21-24a)
“…a large crowd gathered around him…” Try and imagine the scene as you read the story. This piece of information will be repeated as we move to the next part of the story.
“…synagogue leader…named Jairus, came…” What we know of Jairus is here in this story. He was a Jewish leader of a local synagogue, which is a place of worship and teaching. One interesting thing we know, however, is that he is named. Not a mystery person but a recognised man in the community. Any fake account written about Jesus could be easily laughed at if inventing a fake person of credibility or lying about them.
“My little daughter is dying…” He was a father. Many Jewish leaders had problems with Jesus. It is possible that Jesus had been at the synagogue of Jairus and performed a healing miracle. Jairus is desperate for his daughter to be healed.
“Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Being healed at the touch of Jesus is a key message through this section. The healing of Jairus’ daughter begins here and is interrupted by the story of a woman who just wants to touch Jesus’ clothes to be healed. The point is not the magical touch, but the faith that it is Jesus who can heal. These people clearly have their faith in God, but they are displaying their confidence in the God become flesh.
“So Jesus went with him.” Earlier Jesus had declared that he had come to preach, not to heal. Here he chooses to heal because of his compassion on this situation. This is the first account in Mark describing Jesus’ power over death.
A desperate woman (24b-29)
“A large crowd followed and pressed around him.” Again, imagine the scene. The knowledge that people are pressing around him is important for what happens while on the way to Jairus’ house.
“…a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years…instead of getting better she grew worse.” This account is written about in Luke 8:41-56 also. Luke reports her condition with gentle language. Mark explains how hard she has tried to be healed. Menstrual bleeding, in Jewish law, makes a person unclean for seven days and anyone who touches her becomes unclean (Lev 15:19). Isaiah 64:6 describes all of us as unclean in our sin with an illusion to women’s uncleanness. Leviticus 15:25-30 describes what happens to a woman whose bleeding never stops. She remains in a state of ceremonial uncleanness. This is our state without being cured by Christ.
“…she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak…” Anybody that she touches is made ceremonially unclean. This means that they are unclean until the evening and must isolate and unable to conduct any type of worship in the Temple. It is a symbol to Israel of sin. The laws are there by God to teach and the point is that God is holy. The woman wanted to be healed but to get to Jesus she had to pass through a thick crowd. She would not want anybody to know what she has done. If only she can touch him in secret, she can be healed and nobody needs to know!
“…she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” She felt the healing. A freedom she had not known for twelve years. She was released, healed and a new woman.
A desperate healer (30-34)
“At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him.” This raises questions about Jesus and his powers. Can Jesus heal whenever he wants? In Luke 5:17 we’re told that on that occasion, “the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.” See also Luke 6:9. There has never been or never will be anyone like Jesus and so what can we compare him to? We read in the gospels that Jesus’ healings coincide with the faith of those around him. It seems that it’s neither magical powers that Jesus chooses to yield any time he likes nor is it power in the faith of those being healed, but a combination of the two: Jesus’ willingness to heal when he is approached in faith. In Mark 6:4-6 we read how he could not do any miracles except for a few because of their lack of faith.
“Who touched my clothes?” We begin to speculate about what Jesus did and did not know. He doesn’t know everything (Mk 13:32) and he interacts with this world like a human: growing from childhood, needing to eat and sleep, and he is not everywhere at once knowing all things. On top of that, it seems that he wanted to bring this woman’s secret out into the open. And not everyone in the crowd around him was getting a healing when they pressed against him. This woman had come to Jesus in faith to be healed and Jesus wanted to know what had happened.
“Then the woman…trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.” Jesus had insisted that he know who touched him. She came forward in fear because her condition meant she shouldn’t be touching anyone. She would have feared Jesus’ response but perhaps also the crowd pressing in.
“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” This is what Jesus offers. We are all unclean in our sin (Isaiah 64:6). Faith in Jesus can set us free from that and give us peace with God.
A disinterested house (35-40a)
“…some people came…’Your daughter is dead’…” The word ‘daughter’ is used to connect the two stories here. One daughter has just been released from suffering, the other is announced dead. The former had a condition which provided a metaphor for the trouble of sin. The latter is the end result of sin.
“Why bother the teacher anymore?” Death is final. Nothing can fix that. Jesus can do many amazing things but death? That’s too big even for a man of God. The people of Jairus’ house had no faith in Jesus.
“Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Again, faith and belief is key to this story. Well, it is key to every bible story, but it is about confidence in Christ and the scope of his help. Belief solves our fear. Jesus was determined to show that he can do this despite the lack of faith from the household. It was Jairus who came to Jesus in faith for help and Jesus will heal his daughter.
“The child is not dead but asleep.” Jesus knew that the child would wake up and the best description for her condition then is sleep. Those who die in Christ will be raised with Christ. Death is not the end but we do need to make peace with Christ before it is too late.
But they laughed at him.” It’s an odd reaction I think. I can imagine that being angry with him when one is mourning would fit the mood better. How dare someone make light of a mournful event. Or could it be that the weeping and wailing was not all genuine? Whatever, their faith was clearly not there since their reaction to Jesus was clearly unbelief.
A deliberate healing (40b-43)
“He took her by the hand…” This was no accidental healing. He reached out and touched the child. Another daughter about to be healed.
“Talitha koum…” Jesus spoke his and her native Aramaic language. It is a tender phrase, as Mark translates it for us. Little girl, I say to you, get up! Imagine that! He speaks to a deceased child like a little lamb and says get up!
“Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around…” She is 100% alive and healthy straight away. Imagine the faces of the mourners who will see the little girl walk out of the room to greet them. She might think that they are all here for a party!
“He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this…”’ Of course, Peter, James and John saw it and could tell the world later.
Suggested questions for running this study.
Q1. Describe the scene of Verses 21-24 in your own words – perhaps draw it.
Q2. What do we know about Jarius from Verses 22-23?
Q3. What do we know about the woman in Verses 25-28? Look up Leviticus 15:25-30 to help understand her.
Q4. Compare Verses 23, 28, 30-31 and 41. What do they share in common? What does this do for the story? What do we know about Jesus that makes this so incredible (hint: incarnation)?
Q5. Apart from touching Jesus, what else do the woman and Jairus have which the mourners and the people from the house do not have (see Verse 35)?
Q6. What does this passage teach us about Jesus?
Q7. What does this passage teach us about sin and death and fear? Read Isaiah 64:1-9 and consider how God has come down and made us clean from our sin.
Many had gathered around Jesus but it was the faith of one woman who touched the clothes of Jesus that made him turn around. Jairus knew Jesus was his only hope to save his daughter. Many outside the girl’s room mocked Jesus and they were not allowed in to see the girl’s life restored. This story is about faith but not general faith. Direct trust in Jesus to be saved. Where all other avenues are hopeless, Jesus saves. While our sins are as red as scarlet, Jesus makes us white as snow. While we are powerless over sin and death, Jesus is able to tenderly say, get up! There is nowhere else for us to go. And the good news is that God has come to us, in the flesh, to take away the sin of the world.
Challenge#1 Jesus strong and kind
Jesus’ divinity and his humanity are both seen in this story. He did not know who had touched him and yet he is able to declare that your faith has healed you. Jesus is the eternal God who has come to us in the flesh. In Christ we see the power of God and the kindness of God. This helps us in our prayers. When we pray, we speak to the One who can do more than we ask and we know that he cares for us more than we know. Come to God in prayer as a child who needs healing.
Challenge#2 Your faith has healed you
It’s not the size of your faith but the direction of it. Jesus is the key to all of these stories. The combination of who Jesus is and what we do with him makes the difference. It’s not that Jesus is only powerful when we give him our faith, but that belief and trust is what Jesus wants from us. It is also what we need more than physical healing! The little girl lived but she would die again one day. Healing from Jesus is greatest when it is our sin and death that is cured. The resurrection and justification are the things we desperately need from Jesus.
Challenge#3 Our ignorance of the problem of sin and death
The woman’s problem was not only medical but it was spiritual. She was an outcast because of her condition. The law did not give her freedom. As Isaiah 64 teaches, we are all outcasts from God because of sin. But the presence of God is what we cannot have and what we desperately need. Jesus is God come to us. Somehow we need to harness the desperation of Jairus and the unclean woman in order to overcome our attitude like the people who said, ‘don’t bother.’ Our apathy must be repaired with our awareness of sin and the problem of death. Jesus comes to us to say, don’t be afraid, just believe.